Friday, April 25, 2014

“Only Lovers Left Alive” - Review

“Only Lovers Left Alive” - Review

Vampires? Vampires! “Vampires”. No matter how many films Hollywood makes, one reliable source for material or should I say one reliable character to certainly get at least one yearly turn at the movie theater box office is that old bite in the neck, no mirror reflection, perpetual blood sucking, typically pale skin and only comes out at night, frightening cinematic antagonist originally known as “Nosferatu”. His more common and more popular name today is the vampire “Dracula”.

Since I can remember as a kid, Dracula movies are either always on TV or coming out in some form on the big screen. Lately they have evolved substantively from simply well-dressed monsters to now a variety of personalities ranging more mainstreaming – modernizing politically relevant interpretations with the series “True Blood”. Also, others have been rooted in more tongue and cheek story lines with “Angel and “Buff the Vampire Slayer”. Some taking on the more sappy teenage romance approach with the “Twilight” films. And finally others that have had cross appeal involving more of a modern look with tight martial arts action sequences with a protagonist half human -  half vampire dark hero as the lead (pardon the pun) in ‘Blade”.

But in the end, the Vampire character has been pretty much delved into from every way from its early interpretation from the notable actors Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi as your standard predatory Dracula to the now more modern pedestrian, calculating and somewhat reasonable vampires with the character names of “Bill” and “Eric”. Yes, the villain Dracula has been pretty much covered story wise with the one exception that is currently now in theaters in its latest twist-turn starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston (“Loki” in Thor) in the dark, sophisticated, funny and romantic “Only Lovers Left Alive”.

Taking place today, we find two vampires living miles apart but madly in love with each other as with “Eve” who lives in Tangier and with her husband “Adam” who is living in Detroit. They frequently talk to each other and while they live alone it appears it has not been any obstacle in them maintaining their deep seeded love and affection for each other. After all living apart for a period of time doesn’t seem to be a big issue in a relationship where one is basically immortal and one have been married for 300 plus years. It brings on a whole new meaning to couples taking separate vacations.

From the offset this film largely revolves around both couples having separate but similar broad aristocratic tastes in culture and music. They also have evolved in that they find it demeaning to simply prey on unsuspecting humans for blood, which as they described as “vulgar and rude behavior” by modern vampire standards that is. No, today they simply buy their daily requirement of nutritional blood, mostly from various underground sources who routinely work with reputable hospitals and blood banks, but who are also equally willing to sell some blood on the side to secure a tidy nest egg profit off the books. Besides, Eve and Adam are cultured vampires and to make sure they get ‘the good stuff” as they call it, preying on humans carries far too many risk now giving their propensity to do all types of filthy drugs and to engage in risky behavior that has over time sully their blood with all types of diseases and infections.

“Only Lovers Left Alive” is not going to be as entertaining for some of you as I found it. It is very nuanced, high browed, introspective, dark (literally and figuratively) and modernly funny. But above all it is very romantic to see two vampires who been passionately together for almost 4 life times to still fawn and flirt with each other as young human teenage lovers and yet have the maturity of a couple in their golden twilight years. I also was frequently amused by their twist in the dialogue such as the occasions they would have conversation about planning their night time schedules as would human couples would do sitting around the breakfast table talking about their plans for that day.

"Only Lovers Left Alive “ is an acquired taste (pardon the pun again) of a film that ultimately talks about an enduring and passionately strong love between two people who just so happens to be vampires as well. And while they are both a bit weary of hiding and minimally dealing with the unpredictable behavior of humans for so, so long, they never have stopped loving each other and apparently never will.

3 - 3/4 Stars

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Captain America the Winter Soldier – Review

Captain America the Winter Soldier – Review

From the 2011 installment Captain America the First Avenger we were told the story of a patriotic young man named Steve Rogers who in the 1940s was deemed frail and unfit for military service. So instead he volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America's ideals and freedom.

In Captain America the Winters Soldier we find it taking place in the relatively present day future so to speak, where now the complexity of the worlds problems are more calculating, more technical and tactical, with more intellectual nefarious protagonist to contend with. The need for security has transcended the basic concerns of simply maintaining country borders or dealing with politics based on regional issues and boundaries. What we have now is an America that is uniquely and singularly committed to security above all else within a new global strategy for maintaining that peace and it is from this new strategy that this sequel begins its story.

CAWS 2014 is a much better choreographed and directorially constructed film than its predecessor in that it feels more consequential, more complex, and more layered with reality. It also delves into very, very subtly both the pathos and fears that permeated this country after 9/11 with its clear emphasis of how much security and at what cost to treasure, lives and freedoms must people be willing to bear.

As a film CAWS has a lot of good things in it such several early on chase and action scenes that moved precisely, smartly and above all very effectively. It also showcased Scarlett Johansson’s strength as an actor who on numerous occasions stole scenes with her smart quips, sexy glances and impressive stylized moves that her character Natasha is known for. Also, Chris Evans aka Captain America has rounded out here to be a solid and reflectively pragmatic Captain America in that he has more depth to his personality and demeanor. In addition his action scenes this time around have more of a modern punch to them, in that he seemed more infused with abilities with just the right amount of super power. Instead of him simply being someone who runs faster or jumps higher, think of him now as more of a Bruce Lee type with muscles, speed, brains and smarts on steroids.

Samuel L. Jackson as always brings his trade mark credibility in the role of Nick Fury. Robert Redford is newly introduced as a life long friend of Nick’s and colleague at The Shield and Anthony Mackie is Sam Wilson aka The Falcon. Mackie is a solid actor but for my money his role added nothing to this film other than someone else for the bad guys to shoot at.  

CAWS has a 2 hours 5 minutes running time that is filled with new chaos, new villains, new action, new darkness and new contemporary concerns. And while I liked this sequel much, much more than the original, it does fall off just a bit in quality towards the second half with too much concentration on the darkness and chaos. You already know going in to CAWS there was going to be a lot of explosions and bullets flying in the end. And that is what made it feel like for me any number of other cliché endings you have seen in countless other super hero action films. Case and point, if you saw the ending to “Iron man 3” and you watch CAWS also, tell me how exactly how the endings are any different from one another?

Still, as entertainment value goes it is worth you taking a trip into the not too distant future to see on the big screen “The Cap” Save America Once Again.

3 – 1/2 Stars